Ask Amy

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 9:45pm

DEAR AMY: I am a college student. Over the past five years, my relationship with my adopted father has become very strained. We hardly talk to each other, and this is because of how verbally abusive he has been to me.

He is full of anger and will verbally assault anyone, from people on TV to the family cat.

As a fledgling Buddhist, I understand how bad it is to hold onto my sorrow and anger at the situation, and yet all my efforts to discuss the matter with my father end in his curt response: "Get over it."

My father's behavior has improved since I went off to college three years ago, but the wounds are still there.

Enter "Paul." He is a 51-year-old man who has become very close friends with my boyfriend, who is 30.

The three of us spend increasing amounts of time together, away from my family.

Paul shares my passion for music and art. He is a great listener and has never raised his voice to me. Based on issues Paul has had with his own father, he presses me to forgive my own — and he also jokes about how I've become his "daughter."

When I spend time with him, I find that I call him less by his name and more by "Dad."

I really have no idea how this all will turn out, but I wonder if I'm doing the right thing.

— Mixed-up Daughter

DEAR MIXED-UP: You definitely have "daddy" issues.

You can have a relationship with anyone you choose, and if you want to call "Paul" "Dad," and he doesn't mind, then go ahead. But substituting one adoptive father with another father figure won't necessarily help you let go of your anger and hurt.

True letting go originates from your releasing anxiety and outrage. Confronting your father and attempting to discuss his behavior makes the letting-go process reliant on him — and he doesn't sound reliable or compliant.

One way to do this is for you to confront your own past, realize that you didn't deserve your father's abuse and understand that you may never receive his blessing. Forgiving your father for his flaws and limitations would be a bonus, and therapy (along with your spiritual practice) would help you to get there.


DEAR AMY: In December, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My medical regimen has begun to stabilize my blood sugar levels.

Unfortunately, in the weeks prior to my diagnosis, I was prone to irritability, which made for an unpleasant work environment for my co-workers.

I said hurtful things. I have apologized individually to my co-workers and explained the cause of my irritability. However, now my lunch invitations are turned down. When I try to engage my co-workers in conversation, they distance themselves from me.

When I walk into the lunchroom, conversations cease.

The silence is deafening, and the isolation is painful.

How can I fix this?

— Ready to Repair

DEAR READY: Because you've already spoken to people, explained and apologized individually, now it's time to pour on the Crisco.

One pathway to redemption would be through your co-worker's gullets. It's a shameless trick, I realize, but a tasty coffeecake brought to the lunchroom might help to break the tension between you and them. It would also give people something innocuous to respond to.

Say, "I can't exactly enjoy this because of what's going on with my health right now, but I'm hoping it might work as a peace offering. Can I cut anyone a piece?" If no one bites, cut the cake and leave it in the break room for later.

After your initial (very obvious) attempt, you should stand down for a while and concentrate on doing your job and being your best (new) self. People should come around.


DEAR AMY: "Weary Daughter's" lack of concern for her children around her abusive mother worries me. She claims this formerly abusive person has changed and is no danger to the kids.

I think Weary should be extra-diligent. My daughter was abused by a grandmother we thought had changed. We just didn't think she would treat grandchildren the way she had treated her kids.

We were wrong, and our daughter suffered as a result.

— Sad Mom

DEAR SAD: You are correct that "Weary" should be extra-vigilant. I do believe it's possible for people to change, but grandparent status doesn't automatically translate into wisdom or kindness.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com

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